Since she's selling three U.S. Opens (with a fourth coming online soon) concurrently with a U.S. Women's Open, Mimi Griffin is flustered by very little these days. But even she was taken off guard by Annika Sorenstam's retirement announcement Tuesday.
"Isn't that incredible?" Griffin asked, standing near the first tee at Saucon Valley Country Club. "Isn't that unbelievable?"
Still, Griffin hasn't built the Bethlehem-based MSG Promotions into a one of the country's leading event management firms by succumbing to surprise. Which is why the loss of Sorenstam, who likely won't play at the 2009 U.S. Women's Open at Saucon Valley, didn't derail Griffin from her stated mission: to sell out the tournament before the first tee shot is hit next July.
"Is Annika a great loss? It's a tremendous loss, but it's not devastating by any stretch," Griffin said. "The beauty of this tour now is that it's truly an example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. No one player has that kind of impact, the kind that taking Tiger Woods off the men's tour would have. We have so much to promote."
Griffin, executive director of the 2009 U.S. Women's Open, continued doing so Tuesday during a media day at Saucon Valley. Since the USGA awarded Saucon the event in 2005, Griffin and her staff have said they intend to make the tournament the most successful in Women's Open history.
To that end, Griffin introduced a new initiative Tuesday called "Adopt A Player," in which local elementary-school students will "adopt" players in September and follow them through the tournament. The inaugural participant, Nicole Castrale, visited Saucon Valley to meet her fan club, which consisted of students from St. Thomas More in Allentown and Saint Elizabeth Regional School in Whitehall.
"They all wanted to know how many holes in one I have," Castrale said.
Though she didn't have time to tour the Old Course, Castrale said she felt an "aura" passing through the gates.
"It looks very old school and traditional, with narrow fairways and smaller greens," she said. "I look forward to coming back."
Then on to business, which Griffin said has been moving along well -- perhaps even a bit better than next month's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, where MSG Promotions is running the corporate hospitality program. MSG has hospitality contracts with the USGA through 2014 and currently is working on the 2009 U.S. Open at Bethpage, 2010 at Pebble Beach and (soon) 2011 at Congressional.
Tickets for the 2009 U.S. Women's Open went on sale last fall, and Griffin said about 15-20 percent of the 25,000 daily tickets have been sold. Until June 30, ticket prices will be the same as they were for the 2000 U.S. Senior Open: ranging from $30 for a single-day tournament ticket to $225 for a week-long package at the Saucon Creek Club.
Beginning July 1, prices increase to $45 for single-day tournament tickets and $250 for the Saucon Creek club.
"You're going to want to come anyway, so buy your tickets now," Griffin said. "This is something you're going to want to plan ahead for."
Only 250 of the 2,800 volunteer positions remain, and Griffin said she expects them to be filled by the end of May (visit www.2009uswomensopen.com for details). In addition, sales of hospitality options have been steady, with more than half of the corporate tents in the two villages already committed.
"We are hyperventilating already," Griffin said. Others took notice.
"I don't think anything will stand in Mimi's way," said Brigid Shanley Lamb, a member of the USGA's executive committee. "She's definitely one of a kind."
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